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Category Archives: Movie Challenge

Fanmade Trailer

This fanmade trailer I found via digg has totally got me jonesing for the original Tron:

I may just have to work it into the challenge soon.

And just to sweeten the deal, here’s an exclusive first look at Jeff Bridges’ Flynn in the upcoming Tron: Legacy

Exclusive first look at Jeff Bridges as Flynn in Tron Legacy

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Posted by on March 30, 2010 in Movie Challenge

 

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An Empress and the Warriors

#19 An Empress and the Warriors

An Empress and the Warriors movie poster

Hollywood just doesn’t give us epics very much any more.  Thankfully, we have the Hong Kong movie industry to fill that void.  God bless them, they understand how to make an epic.  Over the top heroes, fancy costumes, and a metric buttload of guys with swords riding horses are the order of the day when making an epic, and our friends in the East have this firmly in hand.  An Empress and the Warriors is an example of the lighter end of this trend.

For all it’s pomp and circumstance, the movie just comes across as somehow, for lack of a better description, slightly silly.  I’m okay with that.  The movie is your standard Hong Kong fare, set in a time of divided kingdoms who are at constant war with each other.  The Emporer is killed in an underhanded way and the rightful heir to the throne is under massive pressure to prove their worth.  In this case, it’s a girl, played by a famous Hong Kong pop star.  She gets seperated from her army and befriends a nature loving doctor (with a secret) who heals her wounds and warms her heart, thinking her to be just some vagabond.  When he finds out that she is, in fact, an empress, the whole dynamic changes.

For some inexplicable reason, halfway through the movie, for a brief moment, everyone starts–to sound… like…William Shatner.  Then the story just starts getting silly and predictable–yet fun.  The action sequences just get more and more ridiculous as the story progresses, including a scene where the heroine’s brother, played by a Lou Diamond Phillips look-alike, takes on an army of a thousand men single handedly, and in true epic story fashion he is practically an unstoppable, unkillable machine.  Then there’s the hot air balloon.  In feudal Japan.  I’ll just have to let you watch that disaster unfold for yourself.

An Empress and the Warriors screenshot

While the movie is great fun, a few things should be noted.  Apparently, Hong Kong cinema is not encumbered by animal rights activists like American movies are.  There are a number of cringe inducing scenes involving horses being tripped and dropped into pits.  I really must say that those moments made me a little uneasy.  I hadn’t realized how much we’ve been sheltered from that kind of imagery until I watched this movie.

Make no mistake, though I paint the film as funny and silly, it is meant to be a tragedy.  In all fairness, the underlying story is a tragic one–it’s just that the presentation itself is ham-fisted, leading me to think that perhaps Hong Kong has an equivalent to Sam Raimi.  So pop up a bowl of popcorn, lower the lights, and prepare for a little mindless fun with bad dubbing.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2010 in Movie Challenge

 

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Ed Wood

#18 Ed Wood

Ed Wood poster

Once in awhile, Hollywood gives us a director who is astoundingly embraced by a cult following, an auteur who is misunderstood by his peers, and looked down upon by critics. With a unique vision, and a steadfast loyalty to a small band of actors with whom he always chooses to work, this filmmaker adheres to a visual style that is singularly his own, and eschews convention to make telling his story his primary goal.

Ed Wood Screenshot

Hangin' out...

It’s no wonder Tim Burton was the guy who brought to screen the story of the man generally considered to be “the worst director of all time,” Edward Wood, Jr.  If you aren’t familiar, Ed Wood is most famous for his film “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” a true masterpiece of bad movie making.  Ed Wood’s films, often looked down upon by his contemporaries, found a new lease on life in the form of VHS tapes and late nite movie channels.  His movies fall into the so-bad-it’s-good category, and serve as a true testament to Wood’s dedication to his craft, no matter how misguided he might have been.

Oh yeah, and he happened to like dressing up in women’s clothing.

Burton’s Ed Wood tells the story of Wood’s rise to mediocrity with an obvious admiration and a sincere touch of respect.  Where Wood was by no means a stickler for detail, Burton more than makes up for it by meticulously recreating the sets and even shooting some of the same scenes from Wood’s famous films with glaringly identical panache.  The casting in the movie is nothing short of phenomenal.  The actor portraying Tor Johnson is an uncanny carbon copy, while Burton favorite Johnny Depp almost channels the campy Ed Wood.  Lisa Marie as Vampira was an inspired choice, Jeffrey Jones is a passable Criswell, Vincent D’Onofrio looks just like a young Orson Welles, and I’ll forever be convinced that Martin Landau was born to portray an aged heroin addicted Bela Legosi.

If you are a fan of good movies, see this movie.  If you are a fan of bad movies, see this movie.  I guarantee, there’s something in it for you.  I should warn you though, swear words are bandied about with flare, and cross-dressing is featured fairly prominently.  If you are the sort that is easily offended, you might want to give this film a miss.  On the other hand, if you want to see Bill Murray as a flamboyant wannabe transgender, this is the movie for you.

You can watch the original Plan 9 online:

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2010 in Movie Challenge, Uncategorized

 

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Spring Break

#17 Spring Break

Spring Break Movie Poster

If you were a college student in the 80’s, it was practically a rite of passage to load up with your buddies and head to Ft. Lauderdale, get drunk, do drugs, have promiscuous sex, and watch wet t-shirt contests on the beach all in the name of Spring Break.

If you were a teenager in the 80’s, it was practically a rite of passage to sneak home vhs tapes of movies about college kids doing those things.  This movie really struck many nostalgic chords for me.  I never lived a life like the people in this debaucherous riot, but as a young gentlemanbeggar, I found myself envious of the great fun it seemed they were having.  Even as a more responsible adult, I see that the lifestyle depicted here is in no way enviable, but still, it looks like great fun.  There is a plot in this movie, albeit a thin one.  I won’t bother trying to explain what the major conflict is, because, really what matters is that it’s an ensemble cast of college kids enjoying spring break.  You’ve got your white-bread goody-two-shoes who’s rebelling for the first time, his slightly edgier best friend, the “professionally cool” guy from New York, and the secretly deep dumb guy who’s more loyal than your favorite dog.  Oh, and there’s plenty of gratuitous nudity.  Oh yeah, you’ve also got the girl next door who’s so pure that fresh snow looks dingy next to her.  Don’t forget the gratuitous nudity.

Spring Break Screenshot

Oh look! "The Man" wants to shut down the popular hot-spot!

Seriously though, even with all the questionable behavior and the T&A in this movie, there is a certain innocence in the film that is sadly lacking in more modern attempts to make “coming of age” movies.  So often, movie makers just don’t get it.  They rely too much on the notion that nudity=fun, not realizing that the true formula is fun=nudity.  There really is a difference.  On the cover of the DVD it says proudly “Mr. Skin is a big fan of this movie!”  Surprisingly, the nudity in this movie, while gratuitous, isn’t as prevelant as you might suspect.  In fact, this movie could easily be edited enough to show on network tv.  And I’d wager it’d still be as much fun.

Fans of 80’s music might especially enjoy this raucous romp which features music by NRBQ, .38 Special, Jack Mack & The Heart Attack, and Cheap Trick.

You can actually watch the entire movie online at crackle.com!

What a great way to finish up my Spring Break week!

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2010 in film, Movie Challenge

 

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21

#16 21

21 Movie Poster

I’m a big fan of heist movies.  There’s something about watching a plan come together, fall apart, and then come together again because of some unknown twist.  It might be trite.  It might be overplayed, but it’s almost always entertaining.  21 delivers on all counts.

21 movie screenshot

Do you kind of know what’s going to happen 5 minutes into the movie?  Sure.  Does that really matter?  Not in the least.  It’s fun watching a group of college kids take down the casino under the tutelage of their crooked college professor, played by the always entertaining Kevin Spacey.  Lawrence Fishburn turns in a solid performance as a menacing casino security boss being pushed out of his profession by facial recognition software and looking to prove the old ways will trump technology.  There’s an obligatory “nothing in life is free” message hidden somewhere in this movie, but ignore it.  It’s all about watching a bunch of kids take down “the man.”  When it comes to watching movies like this, I say, “hit me.”

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2010 in Movie Challenge, Uncategorized

 

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Alice in Wonderland

#15 Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland movie poster

Often, remaking a beloved classic movie can be a dangerously bad idea.  Tim Burton’s re-imagining of Lewis Carroll’s classic tale of a girl in a mysterious new land hits all the right notes, pulling just the right details from “Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” with just enough modern sophistication thrown in to keep it interesting.  Watching this movie in 3D must be what it was like for Carroll’s contemporaries reading “Alice” for the first time, with all it’s fantastic events.

Mad Hatter takes in some reading material

Purists should be aware that this story is not an exact translation of the Alice books, nor is it a rehash of the classic Disney cartoon.  It is rather, a revisiting of Wonderland.  Without giving too much of the story away, we learn early on that Alice has been here before, though she doesn’t remember.  What follows is a fantastic journey through an enchanted world.  Fans of Carroll’s work will likely be delighted to finally see a bandersnatch and a jubjub bird realized on the big screen.  Johnny Depp does an excellent job of capturing the Hatter’s madness, and Helena Bonham Carter is outstanding as the Red Queen.  Though the Knave of Hearts is far more prominent in this version than any other, including the books, Crispin Glover (Back to the Future’s George McFly) does an excellent job of portraying the elongated fiend with exceeding creepiness.  The Chessire Cat (voiced by Stephen Frye) is delightfully mad, and Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar is an inspired choice.  Anne Hathaway is beautiful as the White Queen.  Let us not forget Alice.  The delightfully beautiful Mia Wasikowska brings wonder and innocence to the screen in a time when it was thought this feat was impossible–but then Alice always tries to think 6 impossible things before breakfast!

Sure, Tim Burton is up to his usual tricks, including his familiar signatures (stripes, spiral staircases, white makeup, Johny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, and a tinkly Elfman score),  but he uses a much brighter palette, injecting colour into the story, and downplaying the tropes you’ve come to know and love.  Some might say he’s a one-trick-pony, but I make no bones about the fact that I love that one trick and will gladly plunk down my dollar to see it every time Burton trots out on stage.

Pay the extra few dollars and see this in 3D.  It really is amazing.  The visuals are stunning, and the effects are phenomenal.  It’s worth it.

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2010 in Movie Challenge

 

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Igor

#14 Igor

Igor movie poster

Let me get this straight… John Cusack plays a dopey-looking guy who tries to convince everyone he’s got a bad-guy streak in him but he turns out to be loveable. Jay Leno is a jerk who walks all over the public in general, convincing them all that he’s pretty swell–and he is in this movie, too. Steve Buscemi plays an immortal rabbit with suicidal tendencies. That’s really all you need to know about this movie. That’s right. Steve Buscemi plays an immortal rabbit with suicidal tendencies.

Igor--Scamper reads Hunter S. Thompson

It’s a shame that some of the bigger budget animated movies get so much attention while little gems like this one slip under the radar. Is Igor predictable? From the first 3 minutes. Is it fun? Absolutely.  Does the Louis Prima laced soundtrack rock the house?  You know it!  The thing that struck me most about the movie, though, is that it was just so “clean.” A lot of times, Hollywood thinks they have to include several jokes aimed at adults in kid’s movies just to keep us interested. While there might be one or maybe two little side comments that sneak into this movie, by and large I found it to be quite kid-friendly. The only things that I found about the film that might give pause for some were the fact that one of the characters is constantly trying to kill himself, and at one point dismembers his body as a key plot point. There is also a parody of a famous poster with a cute little kitty cat hanging by a noose. Don’t let the dark imagery dissuade you from seeing this movie though, it really does have a good message for kids, and it’s entertaining throughout.

Oh yeah, did I mention that Steve Buscemi plays an immortal rabbit with suicidal tendencies?

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2010 in Movie Challenge, Uncategorized

 

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